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Thursday, May 21, 2009
City Zoning Committee Unanimously Adopted Resolution
Spanish speaking taxpayers left out of the planning process
May 21, 2009
Milwaukee (ECNN) -Numerous Latino residents went before the City Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee on Tuesday to express opposition to the Near South Side Plan. Residents said the lack of information and a Spanish version of the plan left a majority of the community out of the process. The Near South Side district is a diverse, but predominantly Hispanic community, a population of 56% according to Milwaukee Department of City Development (DCD).
The residents addressed their concerns to the five member panel of Aldermen James Witkowiak, Tony Zielinski, Robert J. Bauman, Willie C. Wade, and Michael Murphy that the plan was not provided in Spanish prior to the April 20 City Plan Commission approval. A four-page summary of the 200-page plan was later posted in Spanish on the DCD web site.
H. Nelson Goodson, a South side resident said, complained to the City Plan Commission in April that a majority of the Latino community was left out of the planning process, due to the lack of information about the plan in Spanish.
“Historic Mitchell, W. National and W. Lincoln business districts were seen as mix commercial, and the plan failed to acknowledge the present Latino businesses or to enhance their growth along these corridors. Also, the planners wrote, ‘the area is home to many new immigrants some are legal and some are illegal.’ But did not mention that many of the immigrants are tax paying residents and property owners on the South Side. The statement should not have been included in the plan, and should be removed. The plan should be tabled or postpone until the revisions and amendments are included,” Goodson said. Alderman Wade agreed with Goodson and instructed the planners to remove the statement about identifying new Immigrants as “legal and illegal.”
Other concerns from area residents were the lack of green space, and youth recreation. Ald. Zielinski told the planners that his task force had acquired five acres on S. 5th St. and W. Harrison St. for an indoor soccer field and wanted it added on the plan.
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera told the Zoning Committee, that the plan wasn’t in Spanish to help inform the Latino community. “If the emphasis is going to be in any language, it should be in Spanish. If it's not going to be bilingual...make the forums in Spanish, because that's the bulk of the majority that have to give input,” Neumann-Ortiz said.
Juan Luis Gutierrez, Board Vice President of Voces de la Frontera said, “the people that live in my district weren’t fully informed. It’s unjust for the people who work so hard to provide a future for their children, and pay taxes were wiped of the map by not informing them about the plan in Spanish. The proof is evident, that there was no information provided in Spanish before it was approved by the City Plan Commission meeting in April. The Latino community is not being taken into account in the plan. The committee should table the plan and inform the community and let the community decide their future and if the community approves the plan later, Voces de la Frontera will support it.” Neumann-Ortiz translated for Gutierrez.
Maria Monreal-Cameron, President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Management Contract Team for the plan, unexpectedly interrupted the meeting by standing up and asking Gutierrez if he spoke any English. Gutierrez responded very limited English. Alderman Wade asked Ald. Witkowiak to restore order. Monreal-Cameron apologized and said her action was out of habit.
Juana Mora, a South side resident also said, she went throughout the neighborhood and asked people if they knew anything about the plan. “None of the people I spoke with were aware of the plan.” The only source of information available was El Conquistador Newspaper who was informing the community about the plan and how it was real important to get involve. Why didn’t the planners provide any information in Spanish? Why wasn’t the Spanish media contacted?
Alderman Witkowiak, Committee Chair said, the planning meetings weren’t covered by the English media, neither. He didn’t know why?
“There was absolutely no purpose in translating a huge draft and you have to underscore draft into Spanish. Once all the input was gathered; once all the meetings were done; once all the tours had been done, then there would be a document summary in Spanish and now currently its on the web site (DCD)... The plan is just that, it’s a plan and it’s not a mandate written in stone... What I don’t want to see here gentlemen, and truly don’t want to see here is the crab mentality to surface once again and will pull those down and contain them, and will not let progress happen. We are open to all legitimate points. We know there's going to be controversy, we know there is going to be opposition, we know that, and underscore legitimate, we are open to any legitimate concerns, and certainly we would work as group. We would bring people into committee and they can be part of the committee,” Monreal-Cameron, said. Monreal-Cameron’s offer comes to late since both the City Plan Commission and the Zoning Committee have already approved the plan.
Ald. Wade disagreed with Monreal-Cameron and asked, why is it a problem to have information translated? “It should be a priority.” Monreal-Cameron said, “we did our very, very, very best to try to be as inclusive as humanly possible.” Which Ald. Wade responded, “you may have done your best, but in my estimation your best was not good enough.” Monreal-Cameron responded and asked, should the plan be translated into Hmong, since they reside in the area?
“The Hmong people should have been represented too. They need to know it’s their houses, it’s their kids, it’s their grand kids, it’s their investment, it’s their future, it’s their tax dollars, they need to know what’s going on from the beginning,” said Ald. Wade as his statement drew applauds from the public.
Despite the South Side Area Plan has not been translated into Spanish, Ald. Wade moved to approve the plan and Ald. Murphy second the approval of the Near South Side Comprehensive Plan resolution. The plan passed unanimously.
The plan now goes before the Common Council to vote on the plan on May 27, at 9:00 a.m. in the Common Council Chambers in Room 301 B at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.